The following article has been put together based on the webinar discussion between myself [digital marketing manager and SEO specialist at PracticeWeb] and Mike Crook, PracticeWeb’s managing director, who hosted it.
The event: ‘Get more leads through search engine optimisation’ took place over on AccountingWEB Live: The Business of Marketing webinar in March 2021.
The aim of the webinar was to provide accountancy professionals with a crash course in commercial SEO, along with practical tips to take away to help them grow their organic traffic and get more leads via their firm’s website.
Let’s start with a question. Why is search important?
3.5 billion searches are made in the UK every day. To put this into context, 60% of our clients’ traffic comes from search, and 65% of conversions from our clients’ sites come from search.
You’ll also have learned about Google’s frequently-updated algorithms. While it sounds like an ever-changing system, these updates are actually beneficial, as long as you’re creating engaging, valuable content. So first thing’s first, let’s unpack and look at these updates.
What do Google updates mean for me?
Google’s first content-related update was Panda, a specific move towards boosting content quality. It introduced editorial standards to Google ranking scores, directly rating the quality of your written content, with the aim of putting an end to keyword-crammed, spammy content farms that, until then, populated the internet.
Further updates included Penguin and Pigeon, which assess the quality of backlinks and local SEO respectively – rewarding sites with natural, spam-free backlink profiles and boosting local businesses with quality organic content and useful information about location, nearness and usefulness to the user.
Perhaps one of the most important updates of recent years has been Medic, which introduced ‘your money or your life’ (YMYL) guidelines for content relating to users’ health, wealth or mental wellbeing. Google will judge your content based on its E-A-T guidelines: Expertise, Authority and Trust.
If you have a site that deals with topics relating to your user’s physical, menatl or financial health it’s not enough to just write content these days – you need to back up your content with linked citations, reviews, and other authoritative information that proves you’re qualified to discuss the subject.
Finally, the recent BERT update helps the algorithm’s understanding of contextual language. This update is the next step in search away from procribed keywords and into the much more holistic, contextual world of entities . This was an especially important update for search terms in the new world of voice activated search. Here’s an example: “Alexa! What time does Tesco close?”
While technical SEO is a huge topic and covers a lot of ground, here we are talking about your site’s speed, the Googlebot’s crawl budget, and general site hygiene. SEO is as much about pleasing users as it is about pleasing search engines and, to that end, you need a site with no broken links, no 404 pages, no broken images, no HTTP resources (if you have an HTTP site that is and, if you don’t get one now).
Site speed is really important. 40% of users will abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load – and Google has said on multiple occasions that they treat site speed as a factor when it comes to assigning search rankings.
How can you make your site faster? The easiest way is to minimise the file size of your images, especially high res imagery, and reduce redirects – basically, make sure you’re not letting people stumble into broken links and make sure that the large files on the site are as lean as possible.
If your content quality isn’t there, you won’t drive traffic, but that’s not all – you also need to make sure you have aligned the content on your site with relevant and popular keywords.
I like to think of keywords in two distinct groups: Hero Keywords and Long-Tail Keywords.
Hero keywords tend to be shorter, are used frequently (in “high volume”), and are more competitive – lots of your competitors will be using the same ones. These also tend to have more purchase intent behind them (think “bookkeepers near me”, for example).
Long-Tail Keywords tend to be longer, more complex keywords usually laid out in sentences, much more like natural speech. These tend to be more informational queries, and often take the form of questions, e.g. “do I need a bookkeeper for my small business”.
Using SEO tools
You don’t have to create content alone as there are some excellent tools available to develop your website’s SEO.
Google Search Console is a must have free tool. It’s like Google Analytics but rather than visitor data, it shows you how users interact with your website via search, reviewing your existing pages so you can improve your SEO and keywords for higher impressions and a better page ranking.
Once you’ve identified the type of customer or user you’re hoping will find your page, and how you want to convert them, you should have some ideas for keywords you can place on said page. Your next step should then be to take a look at the following tools to drill down into the best and most effective keywords for you:
- Google Ads Keyword Planner
These tools can tell you if there’s volume (i.e. the average amount of monthly searches) and show how competitive your chosen keywords are, to give you some idea of whether you should be using them. They are also great for suggesting synonyms and alternative phrases, so keep digging and you could strike gold!
Remember, not all keywords need to be included on every page. Some are great ideas for blog posts and some are ideal to weave into your content as they occur naturally. There’s no hard and fast way to assess this, but go with your gut feeling, and after a while you should get used to what keywords belong where.
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The Ideal Optimised Page for your accountancy firm
Keep your URL short
URLs are not a ranking factor! Long URLs just don’t look nice for users – that’s a reason they might not be clicking.
Use proper title tags
Use H1 tags as titles, and H2, H3 etc. etc. as headings. You can find these in the style or properties part of your content editing tool. You also need to ensure that there is a clear hierarchy in the way you use H tags.
Use images you own
And use alt tags, and relevant keywords. Don’t pack your images with hidden keywords, just write 125 character, natural descriptions
This is so important. Meta titles are a ranking factor and one of the first things Google will look at when it comes to assessing your page. Make sure they’re under 55 characters and are keyword rich. Meta descriptions describe your pages and you should treat them like 130 character adverts to the page so make sure you’ve got an incentive to click in there.
Create engaging, useful content
Have you heard the phrase “content is king? That’s still true and, in 2021, SEO is all about creating content that meets your user’s need. Use your industry expertise, combined with judicious keyword research to create content that answers your audience’s questions and you’ll soon see organic traffic pouring in.
You’ve read the article, now watch the webinar: Get more leads through search engine optimisation.